As the credits roll, some movies speak geek
May 21st, 2012
04:21 PM ET

As the credits roll, some movies speak geek

[SPOILER WARNING: This post talks about the end of "The Avengers" as well as a few other well-known movies of years past. Read at your own peril.]

When the end credits start to roll after big budget summer movies and most audience members get up to leave, sit a while and you'll notice that a select group of moviegoers stay glued to their seats.

Now, it may be that these people just enjoyed the movie so much that they want to see the names of everyone responsible. But most of the time – as with "The Avengers," which has now grossed enough worldwide to be the fourth-biggest movie of all time – it's because there's still a little bit of movie left.

More and more, those post-credit scenes are aimed directly at the geeks in the audience.

For example,  the villain who was pulling the strings the entire time in "The Avengers," is revealed halfway through the credits, but he would only be known to the hardcore Marvel Comics fans watching. iReporter Cherry Davis told CNN Geek Out that she "literally screamed" when she saw that scene.

"I felt like the credits bonus was the ideal place for a shout-out and thank you to fans, a tease for the upcoming films and that it serves to invite people who aren’t as familiar to educate themselves about the grander universe of Marvel," said writer Jennings Roth Cornet (who admits that such a scene, aimed directly at Marvel geeks, could potentially be "off-putting" to the mainstream audience).

It was only the latest in a tradition of post-credit scenes - often called "Easter eggs" or "stingers." Since 2008's "Iron Man," Marvel movies hinted at what was to come as Samuel L. Jackson's character Nick Fury assembled a dream-team of superheroes.

"For Marvel geeks, seeing the hammer lying in a crater [at the end of 'Iron Man 2'], seeing Nick Fury reveal a glowing cube in a briefcase [at the end of 'Thor'] – these were all pretty exciting signs of a larger superhero universe," said iReport Awards nominee and comic book historian Alan Kistler. managing editor Matt Goldberg said, "Geeks knew 'Thor' was coming in 2011, so when they saw [the hammer] Mjolnir after the credits in 'Iron Man 2,' they got giddy. [These scenes are] a coming attraction aimed directly at people who already know what's coming."

"They're like a door prize for sitting through the movie," said iReporter and movie critic Richard Crouse. "Stay to the end and you get rewarded."

"Avengers" director Joss Whedon even poked fun at these post-credit scenes by adding a second one to the movie, which was just a shot of the superhero team eating.

And yet, sometimes that reward is bittersweet. "I’m personally a bit sensitive to marketing tools and perceived manipulations, so as much as I respect the strategy there is something about it that is a bit inherently off-putting to me," said Cornet. "I don’t like to see passion manipulated. Nor do I like to see the sometimes negative results of polarizing responses to things."

Even so, she said, "It is interactive and a geek/gaming culture needs that. It invites fans into a speculation that becomes almost like unofficial [fanfiction]. They’ve invited us to become a more intimate part of the franchise and that demonstrates a tremendous understanding of the needs of contemporary audiences."

Added iReport Awards nominee Omekongo Dibinga, "The hardcore geeks needed it more than regular moviegoers."

Marvel Studios' series of "Avengers" movies hardly invented the post-credits scene, or even the surprise shot at the end of a movie (that goes back to "Carrie" – as noted by iReporter Zennie Abraham, or even further to movies like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers").

"X2: X-Men United" ended with a shot of a brightly lit phoenix in a lake, something of a head-scratcher for casual viewers, but a secret code for longtime "X-Men" comic book readers that the character, Phoenix was coming. This has been cited as the beginning of the current spate of superhero movie "stingers."

"I think they’ve been crucial to branding Marvel as a dynamic cinematic franchise with long-term goals and plans that will, indeed, eventually pay off," said Cornet.

At this point, fans are trained to expect it.

"I think fans know the kind of movie that might have a post-credits scene," said Goldberg. "If it's a comedy or a blockbuster, then there's a 50-50 chance there will be a post-credits scene. If the movie is a sequel to a film with a post-credits scene, then the odds go up to probably 90%."

Not all of them are winners, though: The post-credits scene for "X-Men: The Last Stand," which suggested that Professor Xavier may not be dead, has yet to pay off.

"As long as there hasn't been a crucial piece of information provided in this scene, then fans will be OK," said Goldberg. "However, there will be backlash if the scene is unearned and sets up a major plot point for the sequel."

Dibinga pointed to the post-credits scene of "Captain America: The First Avenger," which turned out to be a teaser trailer for "The Avengers."

"At that point I was annoyed because I wished they would sometimes let the movies stand by themselves."

Then, there was Tony Stark's appearance at the end of 2008's "Incredible Hulk."

"It wasn't as strong a set-up for things yet to come," said Kistler who admits that while fun, the scene "didn't really go anywhere."

Kistler also noted that the "Iron Man 2" scene didn't ultimately accomplish much, saying it "was nothing more than telling us 'Thor is coming out soon.' So those seemed like wasted opportunities."


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soundoff (24 Responses)
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    May 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  2. busterp

    Roeper did this already....(at least had the idea – this was good column too.)

    May 23, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  3. Scott Allen

    I like the credit sneak peaks/teasers. If you don't like them, you can leave as the credit rolls, and if you like them, you hang out. I also like it that since the movie is "over" you can cheer when they come out. Yup, great fun.

    May 23, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  4. Reader

    "I don’t like to see passion manipulated." Um, the "passion" in question is a customer's liking of a commercial product. Anything that responds to that "passion" is by its very nature marketing. One has to be quite naive to believe there's something pristine and pure about a comic book fan's fondness for a particular franchise. Note the word: franchise. Comics are fun. The Avengers was a great movie. But the whole thing is commercial all the way. That doesn't mean it's not fun.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  5. Mike Abston

    I remember in the years after Animal House and after the ten year release, most of Universal Studios' credits that ended with the "When in Hollywood, Visit Universal Studios" tag added "Ask For Babs!".

    May 22, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  6. Pedo mellon a minno

    Why not liven up the credits? And it's not just Marvel Studios that does this, though they have done a nice job of it.

    Pixar has many different kinds of things like "blooper" reels, not too mention their almost trademark, "production babies" section of the credits.

    And possibly the best one of all ... "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" with Matthew Broderick as Ferris saying, "You're still here? Go HOME!"

    May 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  7. Jayden

    I use before each movie for times to escape for a quick restroom run and to see if anything happens during or after the credits.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  8. Michele

    I LOVE the cookies (or whatever we're calling them) at the end of the movie. I've noticed recently that IMDB now will let you know if there is an additional scene following the credits. Put this knowledge to good use this past weekend when my family and I went to see "Battleship." I hope everyone doesn't start waiting through the credits though – I think they would lose their zing then.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  9. riordajo

    remember the scene in iron man 2, just before he created the new element, he put a half made captain america shield under the prism thing

    May 22, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  10. davidkscholes

    As a geek myself I kind of like the way Marvel does this. I guess the point is the movies can still be enjoyed by those people who are not experts in the Marvel Universe – they will simply not recognise these teasers or even stay long enough to see them.

    Just how big will the Marvel Universe get? With Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, and of course doubtless an Avengers 2?

    Who knows?

    As an Aussie sci-fi writer:
    I’ve written a solid collection of Marvel (espec Thor) fan fiction, why not check it out?

    May 22, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  11. atiya

    I really, truly loved the avengers. i loved tony, thor& loki the most. just loved them.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Tjaysee

      Me too! Loved the movie, the team, & the interaction & lines between them! AWSOME! I don't care if they call me a geek...who cares.

      May 23, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  12. Elle

    Um... not to pick nits, but the correct term is neither "stinger", nor "Easter eggs". It's "cookie", as in, "I sat through all those credits and didn't get a cookie! I want my cookie!!!"

    You're welcome.

    May 22, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • RZ70

      Thank you Ms. Webster. Since you're such an authority, how about if tell us "what the meaning of the word 'is' is"?

      May 22, 2012 at 8:31 am |
      • CynycismAbound

        A state of being.

        May 22, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  13. Steven

    Also this stupid "backlash" theory is RIDICULOUS. The eggs don't need to advance a story as long as they are good. The playfully subversive Avengers egg had me in tears laughing. No stinger has done that to me before. It was PERFECT. If anyone on screen had uttered a single word it would have ruined the effect. It's a testimony to the brilliance that is Whedon (not to mention, shawarma sales are skyrocketing).

    May 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Arch

      Completely agreed. Sometimes it's perfectly fine to just have a little joke scene that doesn't somehow tie into a massive grand scheme.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  14. Steven

    This is not a revolutionary concept. Others have long used similar methods to nod at fans. Nearly 20 years ago NIN was placing the 99th bonus track on CDs containing 6-15 songs without anything to hear (or watch, for that matter) in-between.

    Easter Eggs are a brilliant way of adding fun to the movie-going experience. It's not as if you need special-issued Geek-Goggles to see the post-credit tidbits, as the authors suggest. They are their for the masses. It's simply that the true fans have more patience than the mainstream moviegoer when it comes to sitting through the arduous roll of a million digital animators' names. So be it. The wait is what makes the pay-off worth it.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Larry

      Putting NIN and 20 yrs ago in the same sentence makes me feel old

      May 22, 2012 at 6:32 am |
  15. errhead

    sitting through the credits for the easter egg gives one an appreciation for how truly mammoth these undertakings are with the hundreds and hundreds of names scrolling away

    May 21, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  16. Joshua

    It's a win-win for studios.

    If 'Avengers' tanked at the box office, the fans are left drooling over what could have been.

    If the film is successful (which 'Avengers' defnitely was), audiences have a pre-conceived notion that the next film is going to be bigger than the last.

    Marvel have rightly realized for years that this idea of 'everything being unified and leading to something' tanslates to movie audiences wanting to see what's next, and breeding anticipation for that.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm |